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WWDC 2019: Apple TV and iPhone will support Xbox One and PS4 controllers. Why is this a big deal?

Among the many new features and updates announced at today’s WWDC, the most interesting for me is Apple’s support for the Xbox One and PS4 controllers.

When the new tvOS and iOS 13 rolls out to the Apple TV and iPhone respectively, you will be able to use two of the world’s most popular gaming controllers to play games on the Apple TV and iPhone.

This opens up a whole new level of gaming enjoyment. Where previously you had to contend with arguably inferior made-for-iPhone (MFi) controllers when you wanted to have a more tactile experience when playing games on the Apple TV or iPhone, Apple’s support for PS4 and Xbox controllers means you will soon have the option to use some of the best game controllers you can get in the market.

A significant leg-up

But beyond the gaming aspect, Apple’s move to support Xbox and PS4 controllers gives Apple a significant leg-up over its competitors. By opening up to two of the world’s most popular gaming consoles, Apple has one leg into a market that its closest competitor is not able to access.

There are approximately 92 million PlayStation consoles in homes worldwide and while Microsoft no longer shares the actual number of Xbox it sold, a recent estimate says that there are about 39 million Xbox consoles were sold in 2018. Add the two numbers together and you get over 130 million consoles worldwide with even more people playing those consoles. All prime for Apple’s marketing.

When Apple Arcade — Apple’s game subscription service — comes online sometime in the fourth quarter of this year, Apple is in a prime position to dominate. All Apple users need to do is link their PS4 or Xbox controller to the iPhone or Apple TV and they are good to go with instant access to hundreds of games.

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Entry barrier

Apple’s closest competitor in this segment, Google with its game streaming service — Stadia — may find acquiring users more challenging. Part of the Stadia experience is a dedicated controller that users must purchase to access the streaming service and this may be a significant entry barrier to prevent users from jumping on board.

If I already have an iPhone and a PS4 controller, why would I get the Stadia controller?

Google is banking on the list of games it will have on Stadia but for now, only two games are confirmed on the service when it goes online.

So for now, in theory at least, it looks like Apple has an advantage in the next chapter of gaming dominance. While Apple may lack serious hard-core games like Assassins’ Creed or Doom that Stadia will offer, it more than makes up with accessibility.

I know I will be picking up my PS4 controller and using it with my iPhone when Apple Arcade comes online.

Amin Ashaari